A Knee On The Neck Of Northern New Mexico

Letter To The Editor_Pongratz Endorses Chris Chandler For House District 43 Seat (25)


During this time of the oppressed rising up against widespread military-style police brutality, it is critical that the issue is raised that US militarism, and atomic weapons in specific, are a way of the US putting its knee on the neck of citizens around the world. I have become pessimistic about the ability of the oppressed to remove this knee, but the public response and outrage over George Floyd is giving me hope that his legacy may well result in enabling the oppressed to finally breathe.

Here in Northern New Mexico, we have Los Alamos County, one the richest counties in America, claiming that Los Alamos National Laboratory is an “economic engine”, but in fact that wealth is obtained by the nuclear weapons industry’s knee on the necks of those who don’t participate in this atrocity. Meanwhile, as LANL’s nuclear weapons budget skyrockets exponentially into the billions, New Mexico remains among the poorest states in the nation with median working-class income flat-lining or declining, well below the national average of an already desperately struggling working class.

To silence critics, proponents of the “modernization” effort, centered around increased plutonium pit production at LANL are continuously finding ways to further the illusion, to the point of inducing our youth to seek participation in this misguided effort, and away from REAL possibilities where they might participate in training that would ACTUALLY help solve many of the problems we face as a result of this selfish behavior.

For example, Los Alamos National Laboratory has recently released plans to partner with Taos High School with a course that will “prepare THS students for high-wage, building trades jobs with opportunities for apprenticeship and employment.” according to a LANL news release published on June 2.  What is not mentioned in the news release is that LANL is creating these high paying commuter jobs in the midst of catastrophic climate emergency, during a global pandemic, in order to support directly or indirectly, industrial-scale nuclear warhead core production coming full speed ahead to the Lab with no environmental review planned.

Were such a mandated Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement (SWEIS) to actually occur, the true nature of this corporate welfare would be exposed, explaining why the nuclear weapons industry, through their lobbyists and New Mexico’s congressional delegation, is adamantly opposing that which should occur as a matter of law.

Real alternatives could include in part, partners/businesses/education for sustainable programs in regenerative and traditional farming and agriculture, alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind and solar projects, traditional home building and woodworking skills, as well as all sorts of potential local sustainable cottage industry businesses, where we can learn to make the things we need again in a changing world. INSTEAD, New Mexico youth become the equivalent of the three cops that abetted Floyd’s murder, co-opted by the nuclear weapons industry, pursuing phantom wealth. 

As a son of a paper clip scientist, who didn’t learn of the slave labor used to build the V-2 until the early 80’s, it pains me immensely to see the US achieve similar ends by the oppressive use of money.  As Samuel Bowles (of the Santa Fe Institute, one of the few positive LANL spin-offs), pointed out, already in 2007, 25% of the US labor force was engaged in “guard labor,” putting knees on the necks of the oppressed, to maintain the economic injustice.

It is my belief that the US is indeed in crisis, at a breaking point if you will, with older generations often hanging on to the point of view that “everything is mostly OK, nothing is perfect,” while the young and oppressed see very little hope. Today, as we see huge numbers of people all around the world rising up, I sincerely hope that the horrific murder of George Floyd is the tipping point that will finally lead to justice, which to me begins, first and foremost, with being truthful about our past and present.

PS and to me, the Manhattan Project plays a key role in today’s “absurd beliefs,” as Stewart Udall also put it: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”.

Erich Kuerschner
El Prado